On January 19, 2002, at 1505 eastern standard time, a Louis Edmondson Rotorway 162F helicopter, N162LE, registered to and owned by Louair Associates, Inc., and operated by the commercial pilot, landed hard during an aborted liftoff from Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg, Florida. The personal flight was operated under the provisions of Title 14 CFR Part 91 with no flight plan filed. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The pilot and passenger received minor injuries, and the helicopter sustained substantial damage. The flight was originating from St. Petersburg, Florida, at the time of the accident.

According to the pilot, the accident flight was the second flight attempted that afternoon as they attempted a takeoff from runway 18. The pilot stated there was a gusty crosswind, and the nearest weather facility reported winds at 200 degrees magnetic at 16 knots gusting to 23 knots.

The density altitude was estimated to have been 1140 feet at the approximate departure time. The helicopter gross weight is 1500 pounds and the useful load was 425 pounds. The pilot reported that the flight was operating near the upper performance limits

During liftoff of the first flight, the pilot noticed the helicopter required "a lot of power" to hover. The pilot suspected the drive belts and tail rotor belts were slipping. The pilot returned the helicopter to the hangar, shut it down, and checked the tension of the drive and tail belts. The pilot reported, "everything checked out OK."

The pilot decided to start the helicopter again and lifted off and maneuvered to attempt another takeoff. The pilot again noticed the helicopter required "a lot of power." As the pilot lowered the helicopter's nose to continue the takeoff, approximately 10 to 15 feet above the ground, the main rotor rpm dropped. The pilot increased engine power to full, but the rotor rpm continued to decay. The pilot stated the main drive belts slipped.

The pilot aborted the takeoff, and the helicopter touched down "harder than normal with about 7 or 8 mph forward speed" on the right front skid. The skid dug into the ground and collapsed, the main rotor blade severed the tail boom, and the helicopter rolled over onto its right side.

Examination of the helicopter revealed the right skid was collapsed, the main rotor system sustained damage, and the tail boom assembly was separated. Examination of the drive and tail belts revealed no evidence of burning or fraying.

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